Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cadbury and the limitations of government


A good supply of Cadbury's 'Dairy Milk' would keep me happy if I were cast away on a desert island. The news that Cadbury is to be bought by Kraft has caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth as we see yet another British company bought by one overseas. Kraft makes me think: 'processed cheese', and I shudder to imagine what Cadbury might become in the hands of that American giant. Not only that, but American chocolate is, by and large, terrible: tastless and gritty. I hope the recipe for Cadbury's chocolate stays unchanged.

There is a bigger issue here, though. People say, "Can't the government do something?" But what can the government do? This is, for better or worse, a perfect example of world capitalism at work, and it shows that in the face of multinational big business governments have very little power if they continue to accept a free trade economy.

Political parties that advocate nationalism or independence are kidding themselves if they think they will change anything. The real power, it seems to me rather worryingly, is with boards of directors elected by shareholders. The only way to change that is to adopt a totalitarian communist form of government which has been tried and has failed. Personally, I would rather live in a liberal free trade economy and put up with the regret of Cadbury owned by Kraft.

Governments' power is limited, as we have experienced, in the face of adverse weather and earthquakes. Much as I may regret an American company buying Cadbury, I hope American forces quickly establish order in Haiti and open the way for aid to reach those who need it. Thank God that there are still enough US troops at home to be sent to Haiti to help. They, and others, will be needed for a long time to come.

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